May 23, 2017 (Lincoln, Neb.) – Tom Venzor, Executive Director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, hosted a press conference to celebrate the historic advancement of the Opportunity Scholarships Act (LB295) from the Revenue Committee.
Last week, as the 2017 Nebraska Legislature prepared to dismiss for the remainder of the year, the Revenue Committee voted 5 to 3 to advance the bill to "General File" for debate by the entire Legislature. For more information about the Committee's vote, click here.
“With the advancement of the Opportunity Scholarships Act, lawmakers are telling Nebraskans, ‘We hear you’ when it comes to school choice and that empowering low- and middle-income families with educational opportunities for their children is important in this state,” Venzor announced.
Mr. Venzor was joined by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion and Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, as well as many other senators in support of the bill.
“This is really a good time in Nebraska to be able to have the discussion on the floor of the legislature next year for school choice and opportunity scholarships,” remarked Sen. Smith, introducer of LB295 and chairman of the Revenue Committee. “It’s been a great privilege to be able to carry this piece of legislation and to work with those who embrace and support school choice in our state.”
Sen. Krist, who has introduced school choice legislation since 2009, gave his support for this bill. “It’s taken a long time, but things that are very worthwhile usually do take a little bit of time,” Sen. Krist said. “Now the tough part starts. We’re going to get it to the floor, and we’re going to win in 2018.”
Patrick Slattery, the Superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Omaha, reported a growth of 1000 new students over the past few years. He lamented, however, the struggle to meet the demands for scholarships and aid to lower income families.
“Quite often we struggle with financial resources to find the support that those families need,” Slattery explained. “Wealth and luck should not be the determining factors as to who gets a choice to finding the right educational fit for their child.”
The seventh-grade class from St. Mary’s School in Downtown Lincoln attended the event. Looking forward to his upcoming eighth-grade year, Nicholas Heidelberg spoke about his love for St. Mary’s and being thankful for the opportunity to attend a school that is best suited for his educational needs.
Clare Morehouse, a recent graduate of St. Pius X High school, reflected on how her school experience prepared her well for beginning her college education at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in the fall.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better school experience,” Morehouse said. “I hope all families in Nebraska will have the opportunity to send their children to the school which best fits their needs.”
Nebraska State Director of Americans for Prosperity, Matt Litt, emphasized the fiscal benefits for taxpayers and lawmakers.
“Every child deserves a high-quality education, no matter their background,” said Litt. “School choice programs not only improve academic outcomes for participating students and those in traditional public schools, but they save taxpayer dollars and don’t take away from public schools. Nebraska ought to be the next state to enact tax-credit scholarships to give students a brighter future and give fiscal relief to taxpayers and lawmakers.”
Mr. Litt recognized that countless studies have shown tax savings for states with scholarship tax credits programs. He noted these programs have saved taxpayers over $1.7 billion dollars
Robert Ziegler, representing the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church – Nebraska District school system, spoke about his experience as principal of a Lutheran school in Florida, which benefitted from a similar tax credit scholarship program. “The legislation in Florida stood the test of time and stood through implementation and the judicial system,” Ziegler said. “The Lutheran schools in Nebraska could serve those students and families who struggle with poverty in greater numbers if Nebraska adopts LB295.”
Deb Portz from School Choice Lincoln shared her personal experience finding the right fit for her children. “I was fortunate to have the means to support my educational choices for my child,” Portz explained. “I know there are parents who want more choices to get the best possible educational bid for their child’s one shot at a K-12 education, but they simply cannot afford them.”
Groups present included Americans for Prosperity, Educate Nebraska, the Platte Institute, Learn Coalition of Omaha, School Choice Lincoln, Nebraska Family Alliance, the Archdiocese of Omaha, the Diocese of Lincoln, the Diocese of Grand Island, and Missouri Synod Lutheran Church – Nebraska District.
Alongside these groups, the Nebraska Catholic Conference looks forward to working on this issue in anticipation of the 2018 Legislative session.
A video recording of the press conference can be found on the Nebraska Catholic Conference YouTube page at https://youtu.be/OJg61s1gMzE.
Posted on Wed, May 24, 2017
by Tom Venzor